Via Katie Pavlich, it seems that Ted Leonsis isn’t the only big Democratic donor to get disgusted at the new class-warfare rhetoric that Obama will apparently employ as a campaign strategy throughout the 2012 campaign. Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that the soak-the-rich speeches Obama gives now are nothing more than demagoguery. If Johnson chooses to fly privately rather than commercial, “I’ve earned the right to that choice,” he told Wallace:
“Attacking me is not going to convince me that I should take a bigger hit because I happen to be wealthy. … I’ve tried poor and I’ve tried rich and I like rich better, doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy. … I didn’t go into business to create a public policy success for either party, Republican or Democrat. I went into business to create jobs, to create opportunity, to create value for myself and my investors.”
The best quote of the piece, though, comes when Johnson tells Warren Buffett to pay his secretary more if he thinks she pays too much in taxes.
It’s hard to imagine that, as Tina wrote earlier, Obama thinks that going to his populist hard Left is a winning strategy in 2012. He’s already losing donors, and he’s not likely to woo back anyone except the base that has nowhere else to go. TPM argues that Obama wants a base election, betting that voters don’t want a return to Bush’s economic policies. Well, that would be a winning strategy if Obama’s current policies produced any good economic results, as Tina also wrote. More than two years after promising that his spending spree would keep unemployment below 8%, Obama now has to explain why he can’t get it below 9%. Obama can certainly try to run against George W. Bush in 2012, but his party tried that in 2010, and as I recall, it didn’t turn out very well for them. The longer that the economy stagnates, the better change is going to sound in the next election, and not Obama’s brand of “change,” either.
In essence, as John Harwood wrote last night at the New York Times blog The Caucus, Obama wants to duplicate Bush more than run against him, but there is a big difference between 2004 and 2012:
The last time an incumbent president faced re-election,George W. Bush exploited social and national security issues to offset his economic vulnerabilities.
Over the next year, President Obama will try the same thing.
Circumstances have changed drastically since 2004. America’s economic woes stand to dominate the 2012 dialogue no matter what — probably to Mr. Obama’s detriment.
In 2004, the economy was growing and producing jobs (despite John Kerry’s argument of a “jobless recovery,” which is doubly ironic in this context). Voters who normally went with their pocketbooks on Election Day could focus on other issues, such as war, marriage, and abortion. That won’t apply in 2012. Voters are concerned about economic and fiscal policy in Washington DC and are disgusted by the Obama administration’s and Democratic handling of both. They’re not likely to back away from the jobs issue, and polls have consistently shown that — just as they did with the 2010 midterms, when the Tea Party also supposedly started losing steam.
Obama’s team actually believes that in the last six months they have courted independent voters and that didn’t work, so now they are turning to activating the base with higher taxes on the wealthy. However, he never made any meaningful appeal to those voters in terms they would understand. He supported extending the Bush tax cuts, temporarily zoomed up in the polls, and then promptly repudiated what he had done, only to then fall back down.
The 2010 mid-term elections were fought over Obama’s healthcare plan and on his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy by ending the Bush tax cuts. The results were, in his own words, a “shellacking.” After his most recent speech to Congress, voters in New York City’s Ninth Congressional District just elected a Republican for the first time since 1920.
And now, Obama is pressing the case for higher taxes, following in the footsteps of Walter Mondale. Higher taxes always seem to poll well, but in reality the country sees that as a last resort.
The biggest problem in this strategy is that the conservative base is larger than the leftist, populist base — significantly larger by most measures. Bush could win a base election, with some help from an incompetent opponent in overcoming a big media disadvantage. If Obama tacks to the hard Left, he’s going to have a very narrow base and end up alienating the independents who thought they were supporting a new, more responsible Democrat. It’s difficult to see this as anything but a desperation strategy borne out of the recognition that Obama has already lost those independents and cannot win them back.